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First Rocky Exoplanet Confirmed

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the yo-adrian dept.

Space 155

Matt_dk writes "The confirmation of the nature of CoRoT-7b as the first rocky planet outside our Solar System marks a significant step forward in the search for Earth-like exoplanets. The detection by CoRoT and follow-up radial velocity measurements with HARPS suggest that this exoplanet has a density similar to that of Mercury, Venus, Mars and Earth, making it only the fifth known terrestrial planet in the Universe. The search for a habitable exoplanet is one of the holy grails in astronomy. One of the first steps towards this goal is the detection of terrestrial planets around solar-type stars. Dedicated programs, using telescopes in space and on ground, have yielded evidence for hundreds of planets outside of our Solar System. The majority of these are giant, gaseous planets, but in recent years small, almost Earth-mass planets have been detected, demonstrating that the discovery of Earth analogues — exoplanets with one Earth mass or one Earth radius orbiting a solar-type star at a distance of about 1 astronomical unit — is within reach."

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First Rocky Exoplanet post? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29439949)

What do I win

Re:First Rocky Exoplanet post? (1, Offtopic)

thisnamestoolong (1584383) | more than 4 years ago | (#29440033)

A kick in the nuts from me for being a jackass.

Re:First Rocky Exoplanet post? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29440793)

I'd like to see you do that through the internet. Who's the jackass now, jackass?

Re:First Rocky Exoplanet post? (1)

Bruiser80 (1179083) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441085)

Kanye's the jackass. Didn't you see TMZ? ;-)

Re:First Rocky Exoplanet post? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29442809)

He needs reminding that he's a coon. They all do every few weeks. Horsewhip the dumb monkey until he gets the message.

Re:First Rocky Exoplanet post? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29441807)

I have a device that stabs people in the face over the internet. Would that do?

gotta wonder how far this search will go (-1, Troll)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 4 years ago | (#29439957)

k, it's 2025, we've found a rocky planet around a Sun-like star with a year and day like ours. we've measured the atmosphere and it is nitrogen/oxygen with the right proportions and we've even manged to image it and gotten more than 4 pixels. What now?

let's image the surface! yeah! we see green trees and blue oceans and, oh my, are those roads? is that a city? How far away is this rock? hmmmm.

Re:gotta wonder how far this search will go (4, Insightful)

magsol (1406749) | more than 4 years ago | (#29440087)

You seem to be neglecting the fact that this - "let's image the surface! yeah! [...]" - is an entire area of science: astronomy.

It's not only the (seemingly pointless, as your post insinuates) search for celestial bodies beyond our own planet's atmosphere, but through this search we learn more about our own planet's origins and those of our local solar system, as well as our general role in the cosmos and what we can expect in the years and millennia to come.

Re:gotta wonder how far this search will go (0, Troll)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 4 years ago | (#29440519)

seemingly pointless, as your post insinuates

ummm.. how? Asking "what can we do about it?" does not insinuate it is pointless.. it insinuates that we have a lot of work ahead of us.

Re:gotta wonder how far this search will go (1)

FatdogHaiku (978357) | more than 4 years ago | (#29443761)

...it insinuates that we have a lot of work ahead of us.

Yes, if the place has oil we need to build supertankers to travel the stars!
Of course, the first barrel will very expensive... so we'll just skip that one and get the rest of them instead.

Re:gotta wonder how far this search will go (5, Insightful)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 4 years ago | (#29440289)

Joking aside, if we found an exoplanet, with earthlike environment that would be completely amazing and would have interesting philosophical implications. If we found such a planet with life on it, that has profound implications. If we found a planet with roads and a city - civilisation, that has truly astonishing implications for our entire culture. Now, if it turned out that we were imaging ourselves... that's still a neat result and we'd learn a hell of a lot about how space-time works for that to happen. None of this is a waste of time - in the long view, our civilisation will only grow by looking outwards.

Re:gotta wonder how far this search will go (-1, Troll)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 4 years ago | (#29440491)

I wasn't joking. Just curious, why did you think I was?

Re:gotta wonder how far this search will go (1)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 4 years ago | (#29440587)

It was the "hmmmm" mostly. The implication seemed to be that we were simply looking at ourselves from far away and we were in truth only finding what we already knew to be. Afterall, if we really wanted to see a life-bearing rocky planet up close we could just go outside. :)

Re:gotta wonder how far this search will go (-1, Troll)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 4 years ago | (#29440615)

"hmmmmmm" implies thinking.. something I wish more Slashdotters would try.

being optimistic are we? (2, Insightful)

Xaedalus (1192463) | more than 4 years ago | (#29440703)

Thinking wastes energy and adds to entropy. Better to run on instinct, programming, or blind hormone-induced rage.

Re:gotta wonder how far this search will go (1)

sabernet (751826) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441231)

But if we were looking at ourselves....imagine the distance. Yes, we'd be looking at ourselves hundreds of years ago. Time voyeurism :)

Re:gotta wonder how far this search will go (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#29440633)

What are these hand-wavy implications you speak of?

I guess we could try beaming them 'Hi', and if they happen to be watching, they might answer, but we (as in you and I) would probably be dead before such a thing was finished.

Re:gotta wonder how far this search will go (3, Insightful)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 4 years ago | (#29440749)

Well, it was a revolution in thought to discover that we weren't the centre of the universe. It would be a revolution in thought, politics and theology to know that we weren't alone in the universe. The discovery of an earth-compatible environment would also imply that interstellar colonisation was possible with sleeperships/seedships - that would greatly enhance the potential survivability of our species.

Re:gotta wonder how far this search will go (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441113)

I think you might be disappointed in the actual overall reaction.

Re:gotta wonder how far this search will go (1)

Saberwind (50430) | more than 4 years ago | (#29440927)

if we found an exoplanet, with earthlike environment that ... would have interesting philosophical implications
I honestly can't think of any implications, if the planet is merely habitable. It wouldn't invalidate any religion I'm aware of.

Now if we found signs of life, even mundane life, we'd never hear the end of it. But it wouldn't affect me in the least because my religion already teaches that there are uncountable worlds similar to Earth (I'm LDS).

Re:gotta wonder how far this search will go (1)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 4 years ago | (#29444645)

if we found an exoplanet, with earthlike environment that ... would have interesting philosophical implications I honestly can't think of any implications, if the planet is merely habitable. It wouldn't invalidate any religion I'm aware of.

Now if we found signs of life, even mundane life, we'd never hear the end of it. But it wouldn't affect me in the least because my religion already teaches that there are uncountable worlds similar to Earth (I'm LDS).

Um, can you name a religion that insists there is no life on other planets? I'm not aware of any, and I have a fairly broad and reasonably deep knowledge of a number of different religions.

Re:gotta wonder how far this search will go (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29440967)

It will only have profound philosophical implications for people who believe in an earth centered, human centered or, may you be helped, god centered view of the universe. Most scientist will be thrilled but it will hardly have profound philosophical implications on the philosophy of science.

Re:gotta wonder how far this search will go (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441219)

If we found a planet with roads and a city - civilisation, that has truly astonishing implications for our entire culture.

Do they have oil? Gold? Rare materials? Do they believe in Christ? We must build an FTL drive ASAP so we can find these things out!

Just be careful if they approach us with open gun ports. It might just be a greeting......

Re:gotta wonder how far this search will go (1)

divisionbyzero (300681) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441887)

Really? I already assume there are exoplanets out there that have life even intelligent life. Obviously this is just an assumption without evidence but why should it be surprising? Perhaps you are right though. Perhaps if we do find planets with intelligent life it'll knock down our collective self-centeredness a notch. I suppose that's worth it, but I'd really rather see the money/effort spent on gravity wave detectors as those will provide the most profound insights into the origin of everything.

Re:gotta wonder how far this search will go (1)

Jason Levine (196982) | more than 4 years ago | (#29442065)

It's one thing to say "Odds are that there's life on other planets because the Universe is so big." It's quite another to say "There is life on other planets for example the second planet of star X2949!" Even if we don't find any life, finding planets around other stars increases our solar system sample size from one and tells us a lot about how planets form.

Re:gotta wonder how far this search will go (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#29442925)

If we found a planet with roads and a city - civilisation,

But of a logical jump there. It might be like Australia, or Pakistan.

Re:gotta wonder how far this search will go (1)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 4 years ago | (#29443295)

Having lived there most of my life, I'm pretty sure Australia has civilisation. But I might be wrong.

Re:gotta wonder how far this search will go (1)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | more than 4 years ago | (#29442937)

Naturally, this civilization would practice the same religion as ours. And anyone here who disagrees with that truth needs to be dealt with. Harshly. Praise [fill in the blank]!

Nuke em til they glow. (1)

TiggertheMad (556308) | more than 4 years ago | (#29443939)

Joking aside, if we found an exoplanet, with earthlike environment that would be completely amazing and would have interesting philosophical implications. If we found such a planet with life on it, that has profound implications. If we found a planet with roads and a city - civilisation, that has truly astonishing implications for our entire culture.

...And once we got over that momentous wonder and awe, we would have to go kill them.

Re:gotta wonder how far this search will go (1)

baKanale (830108) | more than 4 years ago | (#29440293)

let's image the surface! yeah! we see green trees and blue oceans and, oh my, are those roads? is that a city? How far away is this rock? hmmmm.

So you're saying we're on the interior surface of Concave Hollow Earth [wikipedia.org] ?

Re:gotta wonder how far this search will go (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29440597)

How far away is this rock? hmmmm.

Not very far. You're actually looking in the mirror I left out there.

Re:gotta wonder how far this search will go (1)

someone1234 (830754) | more than 4 years ago | (#29440797)

I guess, they will eventually find a habitable exoplanet or moon.
By that time Mars or some other planet or moon will have a permanent population in our solar system.
Given the incentive, it is almost sure they will develop 50% light speed travel and populate the exoplanet too.
We won't live to see it anyway.

Anyway, finding such a habitable place seems the easiest, safest and cheapest of the steps.

NTY (4, Funny)

T Murphy (1054674) | more than 4 years ago | (#29439971)

I appreciate the Rocky movies and all, but there's no way I would live on a whole planet dedicated to them. I'm fine here on Earth, thank you very much.

Re:NTY (5, Funny)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#29440065)

We recieved some radio transmissions, but all we've decoded so far is You're the best around and Eye of the Tiger.

Re:NTY (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 4 years ago | (#29440577)

We recieved some radio transmissions, but all we've decoded so far is You're the best around

Ahh, so they're aware of our existence.

Re:NTY (1)

Canazza (1428553) | more than 4 years ago | (#29440305)

I was thinking Rocky Horror tbh...
It's Frank N Furter's home planet *shudder*

Re:NTY (3, Funny)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 4 years ago | (#29440559)

"Hey, Rocky! Watch me pull a planet out of my hat!"

What... too late?

Re:NTY (1)

snspdaarf (1314399) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441417)

Again?!?

Re:NTY (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29442019)

"Hey, Rocky! Watch me pull a planet out of my hat!"

What... too late?

No problem just get Mr. Peabody [wikipedia.org] to loan you his WABAC machine [wikipedia.org] , you could even get first post that way!

There already is one (1)

hellfire (86129) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441333)

Such a planet already exists... it's called Philadelphia.

I happen to be an inhabitant of said planet. My name is Adrian, I welcome you to my world.

Dead serious, yes, my name is Adrian, and in fact, in my high school there was a also a guy named Rocky, and we were both in marching band and our band once performed "Gonna fly now." Such is the life on my planet, even though I'm a guy.

*goes back to watching sports and eating cheesesteaks*

Re:NTY (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29441803)

anyway it's better you don't, you'd probably open up a bank on it and precipitate a financial crisis where nobody could live there, not a mind watch Rocky movies and have to come back to earth.

Re:NTY (1)

cstacy (534252) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441905)

"CoRoT-7b" is such a dry name.
I suggest we name the planet "Adrian".

By the time we get there (5, Interesting)

Xtravar (725372) | more than 4 years ago | (#29440001)

By the time we actually got to one of these planets, would it still be able to sustain life? Should we be looking for planets that are in their early, less habitable stages?

By then we'll be living in space (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 4 years ago | (#29440111)

By then we'll be living in space and the presence or absence of "habitable worlds" will be moot. We will once again be going beyond the next horizon because "it's there".

Re:By then we'll be living in space (1)

ToxicPig (1614125) | more than 4 years ago | (#29440425)

Consider that, even if we have the technology to live in space (on an asteroid, in a station, on the moon, wherever), we are still living in a big tin can that's sealed and shielded against some nasty stuff. Sealing the tin can to keep the recycled air in is the first problem. Micrometeorites, anyone? Now you need shielding against all that radiation... oh, cosmic rays too. Food and water will need to be shipped in or manufactured locally. Growing food takes lots of space, and more sealed tin can area. Enough plants could freshen the air. Gravity is a good thing too. Make the whole thing spin. The list goes on and on.

Point being, space is expensive and dangerous. Use your imagination if any one of the above mentioned systems fails. It's MUCH easier to find a nice comfy planet where you have gravity, water, oxygen, food, and shielding from radiation ready made and in abundant supply. Sure, getting there would take a while. The first probes would be automated, and would likely be the first real use for an autonomous AI. Colonies would follow, and we would have all the fresh fruit, clean water, clean air, and resources we could possibly ever need. Right? No? Screwed that one up once before you say? Oh well, there are lots of habitable planets out there, we'll just move on, right? Hmmm, there's a pattern. hehehehe, watch out Galaxy, here comes the virus that is the human race.... :)

It's expensive, dangerous, and hard. (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 4 years ago | (#29442471)

That's three reasons why we should do it. Got any more?

Re:By then we'll be living in space (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29441035)

By then we'll be living in space and the presence or absence of "habitable worlds" will be moot. We will once again be going beyond the next horizon because "it's there".

I've always wondered why some people seem to think it inevitable that the entire human race will forego living on planets. If we develope sufficient technology, I'm sure a significant portion of humanity will live their entire lives in space stations and other forms of space craft. However, there others will migrate to any available habitable worlds that are found "in the neighborhood". While living at the bottom of a gravity well has disadvantages, espeically for the would-be space traveler, there are also many advantages for example habitable planets have a very robust life support system and since they are pre-existing don't need to be constructed. Don't underestimate this last point, the expense in energy and resources to create artifical structures to house even a billion people is going to be prohibited, at least until humanity exceeds the lower limit of a Type II Civilization [wikipedia.org] . Current estimates [wikipedia.org] indicate we have just about 72% of the energy harnessing ability of a Type I Civilization. So we have a long way to go before it's just as easy to house a large population in space as it is on a planet. Even if we get to the point where it is, I think a significant minority will always prefer to live on planets rather than in space-bourne artifical structures.

At some point the Earth will be uninhabitable. (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441921)

Whether it's a nearby supernova bathing the planet in radiation for years, or a rogue comet or asteroid impact - whether it's man's inhumanity to Mother Earth or a return of the periodic glaciation which has been Earth's habit these last billion years, or something else, the Earth will become uninhabitable by humans eventually.

I've always wondered why some people seem to think it inevitable that the entire human race will forego living on planets.

At the time I've described above if there aren't human colonies off this rock it's game over for the human race. Life will go on, but it won't be us. All humans may not forego living on planets, but some by necessity must. Or we won't, and there'll be nobody left to call me a liar.

Re:By the time we get there (4, Insightful)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 4 years ago | (#29440113)

Not really. A lot of these planets that are being found are within the range of a few dozen to a few hundred light years in distance. According to the laws of physics as currently understood, we can't reach light speed, but anything under light speed is fair game. 50% of light speed is perfectly achievable (under the laws of physics - not today's technology), and so most of these could be realistically within 1000 years of travel time. Considering that we had animals walking around on Earth hundreds of millions of years ago, I don't think we'd miss the habitable window of these planets ;).

You are forgetting to account of GR (1)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#29440483)

General Relativity dictates that nothing can travel faster than light, and that the speed of light is constant in every frame of reference. Therefore, although we measure distance in light years, it doesn't lead to twice the duration if we traveled at half the speed of light. In fact, as we approached relativistic speeds, the duration within our frame of reference would stay the same, but from an external point of view, our speed has not actually reached such a velocity. Therefore, we would perceive the time to travel to a nearby star as shorter than the value arrived at by a simple ratio applied to c. Likewise, the actual time passed on the target planet will have been many times longer by the time we get there such that we cannot assume that millions of years haven't passed since we first set out from our own home planet.

This kind of craziness is why people would rather study QM than GR.

Re:You are forgetting to account of GR (4, Informative)

DirePickle (796986) | more than 4 years ago | (#29440783)

1. That's Special Relativity.

2. .5c only gives a gamma of 1.15--for the traveler the apparent travel time is divided by 1.15.

3. If we assume that the other star is not moving at an appreciable percentage of the speed of light with respect to Earth (I believe this is a safe bet for pretty much any star in our own galaxy--the sun moves at .2c with respect to the rest frame of the MWG) then if Earth sees our ship hop up to .5c, that's how fast the other star will see it going, also.

Re:You are forgetting to account of GR (1)

Bemopolis (698691) | more than 4 years ago | (#29443265)

The Sun does not move 0.2c wrt the local rest frame of the MWG, it moves 20 km/sec wrt to it, which is less than 7 millionths of c. Regardless, your argument is valid.

Re:You are forgetting to account of GR (1)

DirePickle (796986) | more than 4 years ago | (#29443499)

Man, you are totally right. I didn't sleep, and made like fifty errors when I came to that number. First: I misread CMB as MWG, then pretended that the word 'sun' was where it wasn't, and then said .2c instead of .2% of c. (That is: I tried to look up the speed of the Sun around the MWG on Wikipedia, and accidentally look at the number for the MWG's speed wrt the cosmic microwave background, and then made my percent error). I thought .2c seemed really high. :P

Re:You are forgetting to account of GR (1)

DirePickle (796986) | more than 4 years ago | (#29443549)

I am so totally wrong about the speed of the Sun wrt to the MWG, as corrected by someone else above. It's much, much, much slower than that. Still, the point holds. ;)

Re:You are forgetting to account of GR (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#29440837)

You can safely assume that millions of years will not have passed when traveling to a planet that is only hundreds of light years away. If you assume that only most of, say, a 1000 light year journey takes place at 0.5c (so the trip will take 2 or 3 or 4 thousand years, assuming some clever sort of acceleration is worked out), the rest frame (the planet you launched from) will only be experiencing time about 15% faster than the ship, so only 2,300, or 3,450, or 4,600 years will have passed by the time you get to the other planet (or so). This guy worked it all out and put it in a nice table:

http://ftp.fourmilab.ch/cship/timedial.html [fourmilab.ch]

The effect starts to get 'huge' (in my opinion) somewhere around 0.995 C. It is also noteworthy that time is actually slowing down on the ship, not going faster outside it (it isn't completely crazy to say that light never quite exists, if you think in terms of a photon's frame of reference).

It's the moving clock that looks weird (1)

dhTardis (1326285) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441463)

If you assume that only most of, say, a 1000 light year journey takes place at 0.5c (so the trip will take 2 or 3 or 4 thousand years, assuming some clever sort of acceleration is worked out), the rest frame (the planet you launched from) will only be experiencing time about 15% faster than the ship, so only 2,300, or 3,450, or 4,600 years will have passed by the time you get to the other planet (or so).

That's still too long. The sensible way to measure velocities is in the frame of the source and destination (which might as well be in one frame when we're talking about SR), so you can calculate the travel times in that frame directly by dividing the distance by the velocity. The only weirdness is the amount of time observed by the travelers, which is smaller than that observed by the endpoints, but not because the latter amount is increased beyond what Newton would expect.

GR is not a problem (1)

dhTardis (1326285) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441023)

Therefore, although we measure distance in light years, it doesn't lead to twice the duration if we traveled at half the speed of light. In fact, as we approached relativistic speeds, the duration within our frame of reference would stay the same, but from an external point of view, our speed has not actually reached such a velocity.

Um, what? If it's 500 ly away, and something goes there at c/2, it takes 1000 years. What else could a speed of "half of lightspeed" possibly mean? Even relativity isn't so weird as to change that.

Therefore, we would perceive the time to travel to a nearby star as shorter than the value arrived at by a simple ratio applied to c. Likewise, the actual time passed on the target planet will have been many times longer by the time we get there such that we cannot assume that millions of years haven't passed since we first set out from our own home planet.

You're right that the passengers on the trip would experience less proper time than the observers on Earth (I believe this is really due to the acceleration involved [wikipedia.org] , although it can be calculated using SR). But the time as measured by clocks on Earth and the destination will still be the one millennium you would expect from Newtonian physics. (What would surprise Newton is the anomalously large energy required to get to that speed, and the bizarre view out the window had by the travellers.)

Re:You are forgetting to account of GR (3, Interesting)

TheTurtlesMoves (1442727) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441229)

What are you talking about?

The faster you go the shorter the time in both the travelers frame of reference and the destination stars frame of reference. We don't need to assume some guess about what will happen. This is all stage 1 physics. Its dead simple. We know how much time will have passed both in the ships reference frame and the stars. It won't be the same in all cases, but it is bounded to be equal to or below a classical estimate from Newtonian physics.

So at traveling at .1c and a star thats 100 ly from us. It will take in the earths frame of reference 1000 years. Any other frame of reference will be about the same or less. At the destination star, it will be 1000 years to a very high degree of accuracy. Ship time will be slightly less.

Re:By the time we get there (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29441209)

I personally think a better bet (at finding a habitable planet) is to take one or more of the existing planets in our solar system, and make it into the size of the earth, then bring it into the same orbit as the earth... kind of like terra-forming.

only problem is how to handle objects that large... I guess we need to do some bootstrapping for that...

Re:By the time we get there (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29441317)

Not really. A lot of these planets that are being found are within the range of a few dozen to a few hundred light years in distance. According to the laws of physics as currently understood, we can't reach light speed, but anything under light speed is fair game. 50% of light speed is perfectly achievable (under the laws of physics - not today's technology).

Correct me if I'm wrong, but when I took modern physics we were not taught that relativity said faster than light travel is impossible, only that acceleration past light speed is not possible.

Re:By the time we get there (1)

Loadmaster (720754) | more than 4 years ago | (#29440147)

I guess it would depend on who we're going to send there.

Re:By the time we get there (0, Offtopic)

hansamurai (907719) | more than 4 years ago | (#29440203)

At this point I think we're just looking for planets.

Re:By the time we get there (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29444113)

Dude,

There needs to be a way to undo accidental moderation. My bad.

Re:By the time we get there (4, Informative)

thisnamestoolong (1584383) | more than 4 years ago | (#29440365)

Well, this planet in particular will never be able to support life as it is only about 2.5 million km from its parent star (which is about 23 times closer than Mercury is to our parent star, aka the Sun). Being this close, the planet is likely tidally locked like our moon, meaning that one side of the planet always faces the star. This would make the day side of the planet lava and the night side akin to one of the moons of Saturn (assuming, of course, that there is no atmosphere, which is an exceedingly reasonable assumption to make given the proximity to the star). That means that this planet never was, and never will be, capable of sustaining anything that we know of to be life.

As planets which could be habitable -- when you speak of the time we actually get to these planets, we are only talking in terms of thousands or tens of thousands of years. These measures of time are beyond insignificant in geological time and would have next to no impact on habitability (barring, of course, sudden events such as asteroid impacts, nearby supernovae, wandering black holes, etc.) -- if it is not yet habitable you can't really count on that changing too much in the next ten thousand (or ten million for that matter) years.

Re:By the time we get there (1)

Covalent (1001277) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441461)

You never know about habitability...if the planet is tidally locked then there is a "twilight zone" around the planet between the day and night side that may have moderate temperatures. There could be subterranean water there capable of supporting single-celled life, though I would agree that advanced life as we know it is probably out of the question.

Re:By the time we get there (1)

thisnamestoolong (1584383) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441651)

You are right, science has taught us to never say never about anything. We can talk probabilities, however. Taking into account everything we currently know about life, it is orders of magnitude more likely that we will find life on Venus than on the planet in question. When the probability of something is that remote, most scientists would consider it a safe bet to call the planet uninhabitable, with the understanding that we can't ever really know anything for sure.

Re:By the time we get there (1)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 4 years ago | (#29440911)

We could of course contact them long before we go there...

Re:By the time we get there (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#29443355)

Depends on what you call "life". I think we will send only our neural content there. at first stored as a copy inside robots, who can survive pretty much everywhere where there is light and some minerals. So we can continue a normal life here *and* live on another planet in a million years. And later, we will simply send our minds trough space as digital signals in the form of laser or something like that. We would then truly be those "light lifeforms" of science fiction movies. And we would be able to have whatever body we like. I would wanne be a comet for some time. Then a flying insect. Maybe a kind of fish. And then a bionic cyborg again. We'll see... ^^

Toasty little cinder (4, Interesting)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 4 years ago | (#29440029)

Looks like this little guy is only 0.002 AU away from it's parent star. I wouldn't expect to find any life there, but still, this is an amazing discovery. As these methods get fine tuned it's only a matter of time before we start finding planets roughly Earth-like not only in form, but also in relation to the habitable zone around their star. I don't think we'll ever get a probe, much less a person, to any of them within my lifetime, but at least we'll have an interesting list of spots to visit when we do reach that capability :).

Re:Toasty little cinder (1)

DarthSensate (304443) | more than 4 years ago | (#29440421)

It would have to have one hell of a spinning ferrous core to generate a protective magnetic field at that distance to support "LIFE AS WE KNOW IT". Even if the hard radiation was shielded, the the temperature at the surface would be ridiculous.

Re:Toasty little cinder (3, Interesting)

CopaceticOpus (965603) | more than 4 years ago | (#29440427)

Then again, perhaps their scientists are thinking much the same thing about us:

"A rocky planet, similar to our own, was discovered in a nearby solar system. However, having only a fifth of our planet's mass, and being located 500 AU from its star, the planet is probably much too cold to support life. Temperatures below 800 degrees are thought to be far too low in energy for the spark of life to begin."

You call that cold? (4, Interesting)

jeffb (2.718) (1189693) | more than 4 years ago | (#29442199)

Meanwhile, as scientists on an outer planet look our way:

"Rocky planets like the one recently discovered are turning out to be quite common throughout our area of space. Given a dense enough atmosphere, this planet could even support life like ours, although it's hot enough to kill all but the most tolerant extremophiles known. Spectroscopic analysis, though, reveals its deadly nature: much of its surface is covered with molten hydroxic acid, which forms toxic clouds and then falls as corrosive rain. If life-giving ammonia was ever present on the surface, it's long since combined with the abundant free oxygen in the atmosphere. Our chemists are still uncertain what could produce so much free oxygen; fantasists have speculated on forms of life that would metabolize oxygen in the same way that we metabolize hydrogen, but the analogy breaks down quickly as you look more closely at the chemistry involved."

Re:Toasty little cinder (1)

popo (107611) | more than 4 years ago | (#29442631)

And maybe hundreds of millions of years ago they also thought:

"It's not worth going to that barren rock because it would take 10,000 years to get there, but let's fire off a probe filled with genetic material at that rock and see if anything evolves -- y'know for shits and giggles"

Re:Toasty little cinder (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 4 years ago | (#29443463)

I can accept that alien scientists would use english, but I don't think they'd say "similar to our own" if they were going to immediately say how different the two planets were. Good communication is good communication.~

Re:Toasty little cinder (1)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 4 years ago | (#29440573)

Most of the planets found so far are very close and/or very heavy precisely because they are easier to find. Closer/faster/bigger planets produce more wiggle in the orbit of their parent star than smaller/slower/lighter ones.

Yes but... (1)

fuzznutz (789413) | more than 4 years ago | (#29440049)

Is it class M?

It might have Roddenberries.

Re:Yes but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29440143)

On it, you'll find a race of green-skinned nymphomaniac airline stewardesses with small noses and feathered hair. Pity they're all male.

Re:Yes but... (1)

jameskojiro (705701) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441625)

That doesn't stop people from going to Thailand

Re:Yes but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29442269)

If you're indifferent to that, then woohoo!

Re:Yes but... (1)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 4 years ago | (#29440287)

no, its a hell planet.

Not really the first (2, Informative)

EdZ (755139) | more than 4 years ago | (#29440121)

Smallest maybe, and the first to have a confirmed radius value, but hardly the first rocky exoplanet discovered. PSR 1257+12 [extrasolar.net] wins by about 18 years.

Re:Not really the first (1)

kmac06 (608921) | more than 4 years ago | (#29440879)

I don't see anything in there about rocky or not, just "Earth-mass"

Re:Not really the first (1)

EdZ (755139) | more than 4 years ago | (#29443341)

Sorry, should have been: Smallest around a sun-like star.

For those interested in details.. (4, Informative)

gzipped_tar (1151931) | more than 4 years ago | (#29440137)

Here's a scientific paper describing how the period/mass/size/etc of the planet was deduced from observation data: http://arxiv.org/abs/0908.0241 [arxiv.org]

According to the paper, this planet's orbital semimajor axis (or in plain English, the "average" distance from the planet to the sun) is about 0.0172 astronomical units. Since its sun's temperature is roughly at the level of our Sun (also in the paper), it means the planet is probably a hell much hotter than the Earth...

Re:For those interested in details.. (2, Informative)

gzipped_tar (1151931) | more than 4 years ago | (#29440195)

And this one for a discussion about its possible composition and origin: http://arxiv.org/abs/0907.3067 [arxiv.org]

I guess... (1)

CrashandDie (1114135) | more than 4 years ago | (#29440219)

... that is the CoRoT needed to keep the donkey going...

ok (1)

doti (966971) | more than 4 years ago | (#29440273)

I'm packing my bags

Hey Rocky... (4, Funny)

soboroff (91667) | more than 4 years ago | (#29440319)

.... watch me pull a planet out of my hat!

CoRoT-7b (1)

Theoboley (1226542) | more than 4 years ago | (#29440321)

Also known as Balboa.

Not what I was thinking. (1)

kiehlster (844523) | more than 4 years ago | (#29440339)

I'm sorry, I thought this article was about Stallone, in space.

Begging the question (1)

Drunken Buddhist (467947) | more than 4 years ago | (#29440391)

...What about Bullwinkle?

Where is it located? (3, Funny)

Fallingcow (213461) | more than 4 years ago | (#29440453)

Maybe jump to the left?

Then a step to the right, perhaps?

Grand Tradition (2, Funny)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441311)

In the grand tradition of selling things you don't own, like the names of stars and acres on the moon, I hereby offer to sell 40 acre lots on this planet for a mere $10,000 each. That's cheaper than a lot this size would cost in any large city here on earth. Imagine what you could do with your lot. Since there isn't any law enforcement there yet, you could grow illegal crops, build a manufacturing plant without any polution controls, or just use it to test your nuclear bombs. This is a limited time offering, and quantities are limited, so don't delay. And if you order today, we'll include the plans for a trebuchet so you can fling dead animals onto your neighbors property.But wait, order during this program, and we'll include a set of ginzu knives (shipping, handling, and other fees are an additional charge) which can cut through the toughest tomato without the need for a hammer, but you'll want to use one anyway just for the splattering fun.

Re:Grand Tradition (1)

snspdaarf (1314399) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441499)

Gallagher, is that you?

Re:Grand Tradition (1)

ianare (1132971) | more than 4 years ago | (#29442949)

You're going to have to lower your prices a bit. Considering that I can get 40 acres on the moon for less than $1500 [lunarregistry.com] , I don't see how this is a good deal.

First Rocky Exoplanet Confirmed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29442217)

Great... we can go there and take THEIR oil.

Sequels (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#29443493)

Soon to be followed by Rocky 2, Rocky 3 and Rocky 4. All of which will suck.

Planet not so important as its discovery (1)

drwho (4190) | more than 4 years ago | (#29443951)

This planet is too big, too close to its Sun, and orbiting too fast to be habitable in any way we are accustomed too. But this doesn't mean its discovery is not news: Astronomers are finding more evidence that planets are common. Progress is being made towards discovering planets more like our own than the gas giants which were first discovered.

What is needed is more telescopes of good sensitivity. Each main sequence star not wholly unlike our own needs to be carefully monitored over time, in order to detect planetary crossings, and then focus the best telescopes on the most promising stars.

I wonder how they're defining "planet" (2, Interesting)

jc42 (318812) | more than 4 years ago | (#29444221)

The summary (and TFA too ;-) reminded me of the recent debate over the definition of "planet".

One obvious problem is with the claim that we only knew of four "rocky planets" before this one. Since Mercury and Mars are included, it's likely that the definition they're using would also classify at least Titan and Triton as "rocky planets", giving us six.

But, (I can hear people saying), Titan and Triton aren't planets because they don't orbit the sun. Well, neither does this new planet; it orbits another star. Some people have seriously defined "planet" to mean objects that orbit our sun, and of course that definition immediately says that there can't be any more planets in the rest of the universe. If you accept this new object as a "rocky planet", what's your definition? You'll have to word it very carefully so that it includes things orbiting a distant star, but not those that are in orbits around local gas giants.

And if you find a good wording for that, you face another likely future problem: How small an object is allowed as the primary? Suppose a new rocky-planet-like object is found in orbit around a nearby "brown dwarf". The primary isn't a proper star, so is the object merely a moon and not a planet? It's also likely that we'll soon find Jupiter-class objects in free space, not orbiting a star; if one has a Mercury- or Mars-like object in orbit, would it be classified as a rocky planet or a moon? If it's a planet, then why isn't Ganymede also a planet?

I'd predict that in the not-too-distant future, as smaller things can be detected remotely, astronomers might decide to abandon such definitions that depend on the type of primary, and rewrite definitions so that they only use properties of the object itself. Either that, or they'll deprecate "planet" as a lay term that's not useful for scientific purposes. Dunno what they'd replace it with, though.

Meanwhile, the Sophists amongst us may be in for a lot of fun in the near future. Those of us who sat at the sidelines chuckling over the angst caused by the demoting of Pluto are probably looking forward to a lot more astronomical geek humor in the next few years.

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